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‘It needs to stop’: McKenna slams political vitriol after office defaced with vulgar slur

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters a vulgar slur spray-painted on her office is disheartening but shows why more women are needed in politics.

The Ottawa office of Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was defaced overnight with a spray-painted vulgar slur.

In a photo of the defacement shared by McKenna’s office with media, the slur can be clearly seen sprayed in red across an image of McKenna’s face on the exterior wall of her campaign office in the downtown neighbourhood of Westboro, which is part of her riding of Ottawa Centre.

“We’ve just been through a really divisive campaign with a lot of negative rhetoric and this is really beneath us as Canadians,” she told reporters.

“I’m angry and quite frankly really disappointed.”

It’s not clear who is responsible but McKenna has repeatedly been the target of abuse and harassment over the last four years, with much of it tied to her role as environment minister, responsible for controversial government files including the carbon tax.

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READ MORE: Catherine McKenna adds new security detail as threats move from online to real world

The defacement comes just three days after her party was re-elected to a minority government following one of the most divisive federal election campaigns in recent memory, and which resulted in stark regional divides between Alberta and Saskatchewan and the rest of the country.

McKenna told reporters on Thursday morning that her team has contacted police about the matter but that no one has yet been on site to investigate.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks with reporters and her office staff on Thursday.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks with reporters and her office staff on Thursday. Crystal Oag/Global News

Const. Amy Gagnon, spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service, said police do not have a record of a complaint being made as of roughly 11 AM but that one could have been made via phone or the online portal, which do not automatically show up in the central system.

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But if a complaint was made, she said police would look into it.

“If it were reported, it would be investigated,” she said, noting similar cases tend to fall within the realm of a mischief to property offence.

Minister urges Andrew Scheer to apologize for Conservative MP’s ‘climate barbie’ comments
Minister urges Andrew Scheer to apologize for Conservative MP’s ‘climate barbie’ comments

Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted his condemnation of the vandalism on Thursday afternoon, calling it “disgusting.”

McKenna responded, thanking him for his post.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also tweeted, calling the defacement “disgraceful.”

While many of the threats against McKenna have been made online, she said last month that she was forced to hire additional security after a disturbing incident where she was confronted while at a movie theatre with her children.

A report by the Canadian Press earlier this year said a man drove past them and yelled, “F*** you, Climate Barbie.”

READ MORE: Tory leader pushed to apologize after MP calls minister ‘climate Barbie’

The term appears to have been first used in 2017 by former Conservative MP Gerry Ritz on Twitter, and was popularized over recent years by the right-wing online organization Rebel Media.

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Ritz later apologized and deleted the tweet but McKenna has remained a target of frequent attacks online by opponents of the government’s climate change policies and right-wing trolls.

READ MORE: ‘If it’s truly 2016’ — Michelle Rempel blasts overt sexism on the Hill

McKenna says the incident at the movie theatre was not the first time she has been attacked while with her family.

Several times, she says people have yelled abuse at her while she has been out with her children in public, and that some of the abuse includes the same vulgar slur spray-painted on her riding office along with threats to her family’s safety and accusations that she is a traitor, an enemy and “communist piece of garbage.”

“Tick Tock, Barbie B****,” said one of those threats described by the Canadian Press in their report of McKenna’s increased security.

Another wrote, “You’re a stain on this country and I hope you rot in hell.”

She now has a security detail, which is not standard for cabinet ministers.

But McKenna told reporters that if the goal of the slur was to intimidate her from continuing with her work, they failed.

“No,” she said when asked whether it made her reconsider being in politics. “I mean in fact, it makes it so clear why it’s so important to go into politics because clearly some people want to chase women out of politics, and that’s not going to make politics better.”

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She continued, adding: “I am a bit shaken. Look, I’m tough but I’m really sick of this.”

There has been increasing attention focused on the harassment and abuse faced by female politicians, as well as female public figures, both in person and online.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel is among those who have been vocal in raising awareness of the sexism and harassment against female politicians over the years, and penned a column in 2016 urging the need to confront institutional and personal sexism against women on Parliament Hill and more broadly.

It’s not the first time the office’s or images of female politicians have been targeted.

In October 2018, the office of Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott was broken into and vandalized.

In 2017, federal Liberal MP Iqra Khalid reported receiving copious amounts of hate mail and threats against her in relation to a non-binding motion before the House of Commons at the time that asked members to condemn discrimination of all kinds, including Islamophobia, and study racism and discrimination.

In 2015 as well, a Toronto man was convicted of uttering threats and criminal harassment against Rempel for vulgar online threats against her.